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Creating Surveys


"Never again will a single story be told as if it were the only one"
-Emiliano Zapata

When we create grassroots research through surveys, oral histories and other projects we counter the belief that there is only one side to the story. Creating surveys can be an excellent tool to document what is happening in our community, help us understand ourselves better and let others get to know what is going down for our people. When we document our experiences, we honor our day-to-day reality as knowledge, while creating a powerful and strategic tool to help bring us closer to reaching our campaign goals and strengthening the movement. Part of oppression is keeping information and knowledge in the hands of the powerful. When we reclaim research, we walk one step closer to achieving liberation.

What is participatory research?

For research to be participatory means that it is not only based on the experiences of the people affected by oppression but also that it is the people most directly affected that are intimately involved in the research process. Surveys are only one way of doing participatory research. Oral histories, background research for designing murals, even target research on companies can be participatory when you involve your community in the process, use your own experience to define the process and work collectively to create change.

A great example of participatory research was a survey created by a community group in New York City which had their membership, predominately immigrant domestic workers, design and administer a survey on working conditions of domestic workers in the city. The survey questions were based on their own experiences as domestic workers and part of a larger campaign led by the group to push for stronger worker protections in labor legislation.


The DataCenter has been fortunate to work with community-based organizations that are committed to developing participatory survey projects as a part of their social justice campaigns. We would like to thank Ai-Jen Poo, Erline Browne and everyone at CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities and Domestic Workers United in New York City for giving us the opportunity to learn from their fierce analysis, practice and unwavering commitment to justice.

We would also like to thank Annette Bernhardt, Senior Policy Analyst with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University; Richard Speiglman, Research Program Director at the Public Health Institute; and César López, Youth Organizer with Movement Achieving Youth Activism (MAYA) for taking the time to review this guide and offer feedback and invaluable suggestions for making it more accessible and relevant to the needs of community groups.

A project of the DataCenter's Economic Justice Program, May 2004.

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Download "Creating Surveys" Toolkit
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Bajar "Creando Encuestas"
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Surveys to Support Campaigns

Survey Planning:

1. Why survey?
2. Time & Resources
3. Type of Survey
4. How many surveys?
5. Language
6. Safety
7. Reaching respondants

Creating Surveys:
1: Create Info List
2: Design Survey
3: Test Survey
4: Train Interviewers
5: Analyze Data

Evaluating the Survey Process

Sources & Resources

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